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4-H youth practice healthy living

The Issue

Obesity among 6- to 11-year-old youth has tripled over the past 30 years. Many youth and adults lack basic meal planning and food preparation skills. In a typical week in 2007, the number of dinners that were cooked and eaten at home was 4.8, but only 57 percent were prepared from scratch (Food Technology, 2008). Empowering youth and their families to adopt healthy food habits - such as planning, preparing and sharing meals at home - will improve the well-being of the entire household.

What Has ANR Done?

4-H school-age youth and parents participated in a six-week "Healthy Living" research project to evaluate the effectiveness of a family approach to preventing childhood obesity. The goals of the research project were to improve the nutrition behaviors of youth and their families and to encourage physical activity. Each two-hour meeting began with a fun physical activity, followed by preparation of lunch or dinner using a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. After sharing a family-style meal, the youth participated in an interactive nutrition activity and then concluded the class by recording five new things they learned. The UC Cooperative Extension Health Promotion Workgroup conducted the pilot project in Contra Costa, Yolo and Amador counties and produced a food and physical activity curriculum called “Healthalicious Cooking.”

The Payoff

Youth try new foods and learn to cook

Forty-four youth completed the youth-only series and 38 youth completed the same series along with an adult member of their families. Participation in project influenced nutrition and physical activity knowledge, attitudes and behaviors. Compared with the youth-only group, parents who participated in the youth-adult series were more likely to express confidence in modifying recipes to reduce fat and sugar, while still maintaining acceptability with their families. Among the youth, there was an overall trend towards nutrition behavior change, with significant change observed in reduced soda and sports drink consumption. In addition, youth were better able to identify whole grains.

Clientele Testimonial

"It was fun chopping mushrooms," -7-year-old participant
"Learning about food groups is fun and a great way to learn about your health," -9-year-old
"Hula hooping can be a total body workout," -12-year-old
"The cooking project empowers kids" -adult
"I’m anxious to give meal planning duties to the kids" -adult
"This is a very educational series that will affect the kids’ choice of foods in the future." -adult


Supporting Unit:

UC Health Promotion Workgroup, CIG subgroup
Marisa Neelon, mqneelon@ucdavis.edu, (925) 646-6128